Blood Diamond appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While most of the movie looked great, a few nagging issues caused distractions.
The majority of those developed in wooded areas. I thought trees tended to look blocky and without appropriate definition. This also translated to a few other scenes, but sharpness usually remained strong. Other than a little softness in wide shots, the movie showed good delineation. I noticed no shimmering or jagged edges, but some light edge haloes occurred. I never saw any signs of source flaws.
With its African setting, Diamond focused on earthy tones. This meant a lot of greens and browns, all of which looked fine. I thought the tones could be a bit oversaturated at times, but they usually seemed positive. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows worked well. Only a little thickness ever marred low-light shots. Much of the transfer was terrific, but the problems knocked my grade down to a “B”.
No significant issues cropped up via the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Blood Diamond. The soundfield helped bring out a good sense of atmosphere. As one might expect, violent sequences used the spectrum in the most active manner. Guns fired all around the room, and other instruments like trucks and helicopters zoomed from spot to spot with good clarity. General ambience was smooth and involving, while music showed good stereo imaging.
Audio quality seemed strong. Dialogue came across as natural and crisp, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded bright and bold, while effects were clean and realistic. Low-end response appeared more than satisfactory. Overall, this was a very good mix.
In terms of extras, DVD One includes two components. In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an audio commentary with director Ed Zwick. He presents a running, screen-specific chat. Zwick looks at bringing the story to the screen, the international nature of the production, sets, locations and issues connected to Africa, cast and performances, stunts and effects, research and facts, storytelling topics, cinematography, and some shoot specifics.
At no point does Zwick ever threaten to become a fascinating speaker; he maintains a rather low-key, studious tone through the flick. Nonetheless, he covers the film well and gives us the requisite information we’d expect. Zwick gives us a pretty thorough look at Diamond and makes this a worthwhile commentary.
Disc One launches with a few ads. We get previews for Ocean’s 13, the 300: March to Glory videogame, and Sublime.
Over on DVD Two, we star with a documentary. Blood on the Stone lasts 50 minutes, 10 seconds. Narrated by journalist Sorious Samura, the program looks at the history of “conflict diamonds” and their impact on Africa. We see how diamonds currently make it to market and attempts to prevent the sale of “conflict diamonds”. We meet some former rebel soldiers and investigate the legality of various diamond mining and sales. Samura also gets involved with miners and others as he attempts to see how easy – or difficult – it would be to sell an illegal diamond.
Those elements make “Stone” a pretty good show. It doesn’t present us a great history of the issues, but it doesn’t really attempt to do so. It throws enough info our way to flesh out the topics, and Samura’s behind the scenes investigations add punch to the program. It provides a nice exposé of the current state of diamond smuggling.
Three featurettes follow. Becoming Archer goes for eight minutes, 33 seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Zwick, stunt coordinator Paul Jennings, producer Marshall Herskovitz, and actors Leonardo Di Caprio and Jennifer Connelly. We get notes about the characters as well as Di Caprio’s research, training and performance. Heavy on film snippets and light on insight, you won’t find much detail in “Archer”. It exists mostly to praise Di Caprio’s performance.
Journalists on the Front Line fills five minutes, 12 seconds with comments from Zwick, Connelly, Di Caprio, and Herskovitz. “Line” focuses on Connelly’s preparation for the part and her performance along with thoughts about real-life inspirations for Maddy. Ala “Archer”, “Line” feels fairly self-congratulatory and it comes with precious few interesting notes.
Finally, Inside the Siege of Freetown takes up 10 minutes, 29 seconds and includes Zwick, Samura, Di Caprio, Herskovitz, Jennings,
executive producer Kevin DeLaNoy, producer Paula Weinstein, special effects supervisor Neil Corbould, supervising armorer Nick Komornick, 1st AD Nilo Otero, stunt supervisor Thomas Struthers and actor Djimon Hounsou. The featurette looks at the recreation of the actual battle. We learn of the emphasis on reality plus various stunts and effects challenges. We also hear of storyboarding and planning.
After the two puffy prior programs, “Siege” works a bit better. Though it never becomes terribly detailed, it gives us a good overview of the appropriate concerns. We get a decent examination of the way the filmmakers filmed the big action sequence.
The DVD also includes a music video for “Shine On ‘Em” by Nas. The clip mixes movie clips, lip-synching and images that illustrate the anti-conflict diamond theme. The video doesn’t totally succeed, but I admire that it tries to confront the “bling-bling” hip-hop culture to connect the bloodshed to the rappers’ flashy ways. This makes it more ambitious than most.
At its best, Blood Diamond provides an involving look at how gem smuggling affects a war-torn country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t often stay at its best; the movie degenerates into a trite and preachy tale before too long. The DVD offers erratic but generally good visuals, solid audio, and a nice mix of extras. We get a pretty positive release for an up and down movie.